Pixar may be getting some just desserts for its "Brave" poster which, boasting a bow-and-arrow-wielding heroine, looks more like an ad for a cartoon verson of "The Hunger Games."
In just over a week, "Kiara the Brave," an animated film chronicling a flame-haired warrior princess' courageous fight to free her mystical kingdom and rescue her family from danger, will debut on home entertainment.
The distributor, Phase 4 Films, seems eager to capitalize on the plot similarities between its own low-budgeted effort and Pixar's blockbuster hopeful.
Beyond the protagonist's similar hair color, royal pedigree and penchant for fighting, Phase 4 has taken pains to emphasize the word "brave" in its promotional material and used a similar, granite-like font in its title design.
At least, the two won't face competition at the box office. "Kiara" exists several steps down the animation ladder and will forego a theatrical run. Instead, it will be released on iTunes, Amazon and other home-entertainment platforms on June 19, three days before "Brave" premieres in theaters.
A spokesperson for Pixar's parent company Disney declined to comment, and a spokesperson for Phase 4 did not respond to requests for comment. The film is copyrighted to Bollywood studio Shemaroo Entertainment.
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To be sure, there are differences. "Kiara" is set in the kingdom of Dreamzone, while "Brave" unfolds in the Scottish Highlands. Likewise, "Brave" involves a curse, whereas based on its trailer, "Kiara" is prompted to take up arms after her father is kidnapped by his brother.
Not that the deceptive advertising has been lost on bloggers. In a post on site Snark, Critic and Pop!, Daniel Ross labeled the film "Kiara the Too-Be-Sued By Pixar."
But should Pixar or Disney opt for a legal challenge, they face an uphill battle.
Glen Rothstein, an entertainment litigation partner at Blank Rome LLP, said that, at least in California, courts have set a high bar for what constitutes copyright infringement. It is not enough that one film ape the style and certain story elements of another production, it has to be substantially similar in tone, pacing and plot to be deemed illegal. In some cases, the plaintiff must prove that the studio in question had access to the script or rough cut of the film before mounting their own productions.
"It may not be clever, it may not be good, but it is probably not unlawful," Rothstein said. "It seems like an attempt to get a free ride on the look and feel of another film."
Nor is it the first time a distributor or studio has tried to mimic the advertising and plot of a hit animated film. For instance, "Chop Kick Panda" and "Ratatoing" were both produced on the cheap and borrowed liberally from "Kung Fu Panda" and "Ratatouille," respectively.
Soon to join them in the animation hall of infamy is "Life's a Jungle: Africa's Most Wanted," the story of an animal who gets separated from his owner in Africa.
That makes its home-entertainment debuted on June 12, four days after DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" was released in theaters.
Any plot similarities must be purely coincidental.